Promises of Mercy

By: Vella Day

“Oh, my God. Was he driving that damned motorcycle of his? How many times have I warned him of the danger?”

“Is that all you can focus on? This is your son we’re talking about. Chris. Remember him?” Then she recalled that everyone grieved in different ways.

“Amber, don’t be insolent.”

Then don’t shut me out. “He was on his bike when a car ran into him.” The horrific part was that he was speeding and had run a red light, but she wasn’t about to share that bit of information now.

“What’s his prognosis?” Her mother’s tone came out cool and controlled. A far cry from Amber’s emotional reaction.

“It’s too early to tell. Can you come and be with him? He’ll want to see you when he wakes up.”

“Oh, darling, you know I would if I could, but there’s a huge benefit this weekend to raise money for the cardiac unit of the hospital, and I’m running the event.” Chatter and the clinking of glasses sounded in the background, implying she was at a restaurant. “Call me when you know more, and I’ll try to get up there.”

“You have to come. Chris needs you.”

“I’ll try.” Her mother disconnected.

You better do more than try. Amber sagged against the edge of the break room counter, her gut clenching. Every bit of pent up frustration shot to the surface. Why was she so disappointed at her mom’s response when she’d never been any other way? Once her older brother, Thomas, became a doctor, her mother’s mission in life had been fulfilled, and it seemed as if she’d said to hell with the rest of her kids.

One of the reasons her mother insisted Amber’s younger brother move from Oklahoma to Rock Hard, Montana was because she thought Amber might be able to tame him. Now apparently she’d failed at even that.

Amber shook the phone. “Fuck you, Mother.”

She didn’t know whether the dismissal or the hint of blame her mom seemed to be placing hurt more. Amber turned back around and looked in the mirror over the small kitchen sink. “It’s not my fault.” Christ. She looked like shit. The person with the red eyes, sunken cheeks, and brown wavy hair that had escaped its tie, mocked her.

Before she could do anything about her ragged appearance, the break room door burst open and Jamie Henderson rushed in. “Oh, Amber, I just heard.”

Her best friend, a hospice nurse at the hospital, embraced her, and the comfort helped unbind some of her muscles.

Jamie tried to soothe the hair around Amber’s face. “Maybe you should go home and rest. You need to be strong for him.”

Amber shook her head. “I can’t leave him.”

Jamie leaned back and squeezed her hand. “I found one of the doctors who worked on Chris.” Her smile looked forced. “He’s going to live.”

The words should have comforted her, but Chris’s definition of living might be different from Jamie’s. Amber sniffled. “Did they say when he’d be back in Intensive Care?”

“The doctors are looking at the CAT scan now.”

That didn’t answer her question. She hoped Chris needed surgery. If his spinal cord had been severed, there’d be nothing the doctors could do.

Amber wiped the moisture from under her eyes. “I should let them know where I am in case one of the doctors needs to get a hold of me.” For the first time, she noticed the small table wedged in the corner of the break room. It looked as lost as she felt.

Jamie gave her another hug. “I’m staying with you.”

“What about your patients?”

“Marla and Cherise are covering for me.”

“Tell them thank you.”

She followed Jamie out of the room and located one of the emergency room nurses. Amber told her she and Jamie would be in the waiting room until they received news of her brother’s condition.

“I have to call my older brother Thomas,” Amber said, the crack in her heart widening once more. “He’s a doctor.”

“I remember.” Jamie stood. “I’ll give you some privacy. I’ll grab some snacks from the machine. They don’t have tea, so do you want a Coke instead?”

“Sure.” The caffeine might help with her headache. Dread swirled as she called Thomas, but his phone went straight to voicemail. Shit. She hated to leave the terrifying news on a message, so all she said was for him to call her back. That it was important.